Immigration & BorderReported Illegal Alien Border Deaths Rising with Unlawful Crossings, But Total Deaths Could be Higher

Illegal immigration has broken records in recent years, and while with those surges authorities have reported increases in border deaths, an agency reports that the actual number may be much higher.
May 23, 2022
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Illegal immigration set record-breaking numbers in 2021, reaching 1,659,206 border enforcement encounters with migrants, and this year’s numbers appear to be well underway to meet or exceed that record once again.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 has so far seen a staggering 1,295,900 encounters on the southern border through April.

The Texan reported last week that 234,000 illegal aliens encountered by border agents for April alone were indicated to be the highest monthly total ever encountered on the southern border in history.

Enforcement actions are categorized under two primary sources of law. The first is Title 8 enforcement, which is the long-standing “Immigration and Naturalization Act” used as the primary source of law for enforcing illegal entry and deportation action.

The other source, known as Title 42, which is a portion of the Public Health and Service Act, was implemented by the Trump administration in early 2020 to expedite deportations citing the need to prevent the importation of communicable diseases — namely COVID-19.  The act allowed immigration authorities to rapidly deport migrants and even deny requests for asylum.

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Of the 1,295,900 expulsion and enforcement actions taken in FY 2022 to date, 648,365 were taken under Title 8, and 647,535 were taken under the public health provisions of Title 42.

When the Biden administration announced earlier their intent to end Title 42 enforcement on May 23, numerous border officials and communities expressed concern that lifting the order would result in large surges of illegal migration with estimates of up to 18,000 encounters per day.

However, late Friday a federal judge in Louisiana issued an injunction against the federal government ordering that Title 42 be left in place, after having issued a temporary order late last month.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus issued a statement earlier this week before the Friday ruling saying that CBP will continue to enforce the Title 42 Public Health Order and that when it is finally terminated the CBP will continue to impose consequences for all unlawful entries by exercising its long-standing Title 8 authorities.

“The fact is that our borders are not open, and we will continue to remove those who enter our country unlawfully and have no legal basis to stay,” Magnus said in a statement.

Along with the increase in overall border enforcement encounters, CBP is reporting increased efforts to provide search and rescue efforts, as well as an uptick in known death cases.

Life-saving search and rescue efforts increased from 5,071 missions in FY 2020 to 12,833 in FY 2021 corresponding with the record spike, and are already up to 10,588 for the 2022 year to date. 

Known border deaths also saw an increase last year.

According to CBP data, migrant deaths along the southern border increased from 300 deaths in 2019 and 247 deaths in 2020 to 557 deaths in 2021 – however, those numbers are likely not complete.

A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to Congress issued last month revealed problems in the way the CBP data system was gathering and tracking migrant death data, and recommended to Congress that the reporting system be improved to ensure known cases are not excluded from CBP data.

In the report, the GAO found that “CBP has not collected and recorded, or reported to Congress, complete data on migrant deaths or disclosed limitations with the data it has reported.”

The findings showed how CBP was failing in various sectors to communicate with local law enforcement agencies and other entities such as county medical examiners to compile a complete record of deaths as described in the agency guidelines.

Reportable deaths under the guidelines include any death of a “suspected undocumented migrant who died in furtherance of an illegal entry, whether or not the Border Patrol was directly involved,” if it occurred in a zone that is within a certain proximity to the southern border. Deaths that occur outside that zone are still required to be included in the data if CPB is directly involved in the incident.

Included in the report, the GAO found that in certain sectors CBP data accounted for roughly half the known deaths that should have been reported in the system each year for five years from 2015 to 2019 – with one report characterizing the findings as CBP potentially missing thousands of deaths.

While CBP has not posted 2022 partial data for migrant deaths on the southern border, local law enforcement agencies in Texas border counties continue to share shocking details surrounding individual death cases regularly across the state.

The Culberson County Sheriff’s Office shared on Facebook Wednesday a photo of a decomposing body of a 25-year-old woman from Honduras that was found in the desert by state law enforcement while assisting CBP with tracking narcotics smugglers. According to the Sheriff, this is the third body recovered in that county in the past two months.

Texas Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX21) excoriated DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a House committee hearing last month, displaying similar graphic photos of deceased migrants and accused the Biden administration of practices that encourage the mass migration that Roy indicated has led to horrific casualties.

Secretary Mayorkas responded to Roy, dismissing his allegations saying, “are you actually interested in the facts and the law?”

The Texan reported that Mayorkas visited the City of McAllen last week where he announced plans for expanding expedited removal for illegal entry cases and that asylum officers will assume the duties to oversee asylum cases in a plan to remove that decision from immigration courts where such claims are usually reviewed.

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Matt Stringer

Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy in West Texas. He graduated summa cum laude from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and is presently finishing a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.

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